Pete Roberts, Specialist Paramedic Practitioner
Central Milton Keynes Medical Centre
Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK)
My career to date has been pretty varied. I worked for many years in the ambulance service as a paramedic and also held positions in education and urgent care. Primary care has always been an area that I’ve been interested in and three years ago I decided to make the move. I’ve been working as a Specialist Paramedic Practitioner ever since. I’ve never looked backed!
I decided to take part in the CARE programme because I felt it was an opportunity to implement change from the inside, driven by people on the ground – like me – who know patients and communities better than many. In my previous experience in other areas of healthcare I noticed there was a lot of talk of innovation and good ideas sprouting from the ground up but it was often challenging for those ideas to flourish. I saw taking part in CARE as an opportunity for clinicians to work together to identify areas for change from our everyday interaction with patents and try to work towards implementing those changes to improve the health and care of our communities.
As part of the CARE programme we were asked to think of an idea for an in-work project. I wanted to do something that gave tangible benefits to our patients and their families. It also needed to be achievable and affordable for the primary care network. I decided to develop a horticultural therapy service through a patient allotment group. It involves a small group of our patients who have mental health problems such as anxiety, learning disabilities or are socially isolated, running their own allotment plot with a horticultural advisor guiding them throughout – from the first spade in the ground through to picking their first crop.
The support focuses on mindfulness and the ‘joy of waiting’ while running the allotment – because we know this can greatly benefit these patients. A big part of the therapy is recognising that crops don’t grow overnight and that it’s okay to wait. I hope they can take this concept into other aspects of their lives to help manage their conditions. For example, if they’re on a telephone call waiting to be connected, they can use learning from the allotment to practice mindfulness to counteract any feelings of anxiety or stress.
The CARE webinars really helped us all stay grounded and to power up our projects. They make you feel like you’re not alone, that there are other people at my level working on similar projects and facing similar issues. The webinars have helped us tackle challenges together – there’s always somebody in the group who has a different perspective or way of overcoming a challenge. I’m standing in front of the statue wondering what it looks like at the back; they’re looking at the back of the statue wondering what the front looks like! Being able to discuss our progress together sparks even more ideas and inspiration. It’s like a giant interactive mind map.
The ShinyMind app has also been really helpful. It enables you identify areas in yourself that might need some self-reflection and self-care. There are areas in all of our practice, personalities and relationships that have the potential to change for the better. If only we knew that those changes are possible. The app makes positive change possible.
Though I’m in the very early stages of my CARE project there are already some very positive outcomes emerging. The local urban farm is very excited about the project and has agreed to host the allotment group and are also interested in supporting the roll out of the service to the wider CCG area. I’ve also had some very positive comments from members of the allotment group. I recently spoke on the phone to the mother of a member of the group who was really excited and emotional that her son – who has addiction issues – is able to take part. She sees horticultural therapy as a very positive step in his recovery – and the fact that it’s free and that her son can bring food home to cook for dinner is even better. It really was a joyous telephone conversation.
The CARE programme has enabled me to see problems in a different way – as opportunities rather than threats. It’s allowed me to think clearly about tackling challenges and breaking them down into smaller chunks. The programme has been a positive force that’s helped me implement change and help improve lives. As a group we now feel that we can influence, drive change and that our voice can be heard.